U.S. President Joe Biden. Photo: Google

By KELIN DILLON

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and U.S. President Joe Biden met for the first time since Biden assumed office in a virtual summit on Monday, March 1, with the U.S. president promising to treat Mexico as “equals” and the two discussing issues such as immigration, coronavirus, security and climate change.

“I consider it very important, fundamental, to maintain good relations (with the United States), to be able to dialogue on bilateral issues periodically,” said López Obrador. “There is a will to maintain good relations.”

Biden said at the beginning of the meeting that the two countries are “stronger” and “more secure” when they work together, and acknowledged that, in the past, the United States and Mexico “have not been perfect neighbors,” along with a commitment to change that.

The U.S. president noted the importance of the United States’ Hispanic population, saying “60 percent of those who are here are Mexican-Americans, and they are a fundamental part of our history and as a reminder I have a bust of (1970s Chicano farmworkers activist) César Chávez in the Oval Office.”

López Obrador also stressed the shared history and cultures between the two countries, and, most importantly, “the friendship between our people.”

“We have to cooperate for development with independence, with autonomy,” said AMLO, and thanked Biden for “equality in our relationship” and “respect for sovereignty, that is what matters.”

The meeting then went behind closed doors, after which Biden and López Obrador released a joint statement addressing the issues they had discussed and pledged to work together on.

In relation to the covid-19 pandemic, the two leaders agreed to increase cooperation “based on improvements in public health capacities, information exchange and development of border policies.”

AMLO had said prior to the meeting that he would ask the United States to help provide Mexico with vaccines, though Washington shot down the idea before the summit even began, citing the need to finish vaccinating the U.S. population first.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which has been in the news lately due to Mexico’s planned energy reform’s supposed violation of that accord, was recommitted to by both heads of state, as well as the resumption of the High Level Economic Dialogue, which was created under the Barack Obama and Enrique Peña Nieto administrations to strengthen effective bilateral economic conversation between the countries.

“The presidents pledged to promote migration policies that recognize the dignity of migrants, as well as the imperative of orderly, safe and regular migration,” read the joint statement on the topic of immigration. “They agreed to collaborate in a joint effort to address the root causes behind regional migration, improve managing and developing legal avenues for migration.”

On the topic of climate change, both Biden and López Obrador agreed on the need to promote energy efficiency and “discussed how they can work together to support a successful outcome at this year’s Climate Leaders’ Summit on April 22, to be hosted by the United States.”

The statement notably had no mention of the Bracero (translating to “manual laborer”) program, despite the fact that AMLO had said before the meeting that he would request Biden to restart it. 

The Bracero program was created to provide adequate living conditions and wages for Mexican farmworkers laboring in the United States between 1942 and 1964, in an effort to fill the agricultural employment deficit caused by World War II. In its 22 years, the program offered employment to more than 5 million braceros, and was the largest foreign work program ever implemented by the United States.

…March 2, 2021

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